We’ve all done it. You know, silently judge the mother in the grocery store who’s child is yelling and screaming down the aisles of the store. The mom is clearly embarrassed as she tries gain control, but it’s a losing battle. And you’re telling yourself, “That will never be me.” I haven’t experienced my kids acting a complete fool in the grocery store, but I have experienced it at school, parties, family gatherings, you name it.
To be honest, I really didn’t have much thought on being a mother until I became one 7 years ago, but I did know they would be well-mannered and well-behaved. I would be a tough yet fun mom that didn’t take any mess. We would go on outings often; I would read to them every night; we’d spend time watching their favorite movies and shows. . . I could go on. As wonderful as that sounds, it isn’t my reality. I don’t have to tell you that being a mother is not easy, and I didn’t expect it to be. However, I don’t feel like I’ve lived up to my expectations, and I often find myself comparing fantasy to reality.
My oldest son, Travis, is autistic. He is so damn brilliant but when he’s uncomfortable or frustrated, his meltdowns can be difficult to handle. My middle baby, Ethan, is such a quiet sweetheart, but he looks up to his big brother and often models his behavior because he’s too young to understand Travis’ autism. Baby girl, Logan, is so spoiled and as much as she is independent, she is also dependent. They are all so sweet and polite, but that’s just one side. They really give me a run for my money.
My husband works a lot of hours, so I seldom take the kids places if he or my mom isn’t able to go with us because trying to calm a meltdown while baby girl is whining and tugging on my leg to hold her and my middle baby is calling my name repeatedly just for a little attention is so stressful. You can see the embarrassment and shame on my face while I’m trying to tend to all their needs at the same time. With tears in my eyes, I immediately regret my decision to bring them out alone. At that point, the day is cut short as I drive home with screaming kids in the backseat.
Did I forget to mention that I also work full-time? By time I get home, I barely have enough time to help with homework, cook at least two meals (picky eaters), prepare for the next day and try to squeeze in at least an hour with my husband, so I put off SpongeBob and reading biscuit books until the next day.
Last weekend, I took the kids outside to ride bikes. Now, this was Ethan’s first time riding a bike, so I knew this would be a teaching moment. I was prepared, ready and excited. But Logan had just woke from her nap, so she was cranky and didn’t want to play with her toys; she was being her clingy-self wanting me to hold her. Ethan didn’t get the concept of actually pedaling, and I wasn’t such a great teacher because I was holding a 25-pound one-year-old while bending over to turn the pedals for him. Travis was driving me crazy asking me random questions and if I put Logan down for a second, she would cry. It was so hot and I was so frustrated that I just left Ethan sitting on his bike while I sat on the step crying. I just wanted them to get some sunlight and have some fun, but my plans were not working out for me.
It pained me to see their disappointed faces when I told them to bring their bikes in after only 20 minutes. So, I met my fear head on and took them to the park. They had so much fun and seeing them running free gave me so much joy. That moment gave me the courage to take the kids to my family’s Fourth of July barbeque that I already planned on not attending because my husband had to work again. Even though there were a few hiccups, would you know the kids had a blast! I allowed myself to be present with the them and not worry so much about how they might behave.
So let’s talk. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect mothers? Why do we beat ourselves up when our kids aren’t model children? Why are people so damn judgmental?
I often question if I should explain to others about Travis’s autism when I’m struggling to calm him down for the third time from having a meltdown. Every time I decide not to. Listen, why should we care what other people think?
I’m learning to stop judging myself for not being “the perfect mom.” It’s okay to be tired and just want some time for yourself. It’s okay that it took you a little longer that one time (or two) to get your kids in check. It’s okay that the great day you planned for the children didn’t go smoothly. Make it better next time! Don’t drown in the fantasies of who you thought you would be. Live in the present! Know that even if you make mistakes those beautiful children looking up at you love YOU for who you are and not who you want to be. If you think you’re not being the best mom you can be, then do something about it!
We don’t have to have it together all the time and those judging stares in the grocery store are just that. We are not “the perfect mom”, and thank God our children don’t expect us to be.